Benjamin Arriola (brother of Fernando Arriola)
Benjamin Arriola describes his brother Fernando Arriola’s experiences in the US Army during the Korean War. He shares that Fernando Arriola became and remains a MIA soldier. Benjamin Arriola describes his brother’s motivation to join the Army, his participation in the Chosin Reservoir where he went MIA, the medals Fernando received for his service. He details his brother’s history as a boxer and how DNA from a knocked tooth during a boxing match is now being used to help identify his potential remains. He expresses that his brother’s sacrifice was worth it based on how far South Korea has come since the war.
MIA in the Chosin Reservoir
Benjamin Arriola describes his brother Fernando Arriola's motivation to join the U.S. Army. He recounts his brother's landing in Inchon and journey to the Chosin Reservoir. He shares that his brother, Fernando, went MIA (Missing in Action) during the battle there and is still considered MIA at the time of this interview.
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Classified as a 4A
Benjamin Arriola describes his reasoning for not joining the military. He shares that he was the only survivor in his family helping his mother at the time, and the registrant classified him as a 4A, officially a deferment, because of the lack of men in his family. He added that due to this, he did not have to report unless needed.
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Medals after MIA
Benjamin Arriola describes the medals his brother, Fernando Arriola, received after being declared MIA and Presumed Dead in the Korean War. He shares that his brother received the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal. He displays several certificates sent by officials in South Korea as well.
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Dental Records for MIA
Benjamin Arriola describes his brother Fernando Arriola's history as a boxer in the Army. He shares the story of how his brother's tooth was knocked out. He details how the DNA extraction from the tooth is now being used to help identify his brother's remains as an MIA soldier if they should ever appear.
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My name’s Benjamin Arriola
and first name, you spell it B-e-n-j-
a-m-i-n, that’s Benjamin. The last name’s
Arriola, it’s A-r-r-i-o-
l-a. What is the ethnic origin of last name, Arriola?
Actually, Arriola, it starts, actually, it started in Spain,
which means a rock quarry, and
that’s where it started. I got that information.
When were you born, and where were you born? I was born here
in El Paso, back in October the 10th, 1934.
And tell me about your family.
Oh, yes. We were a small family,
it was my dad, my mom, and three children. I was the youngest.
What it was is that my dad took off to Mexico
with another woman, with another family.
The responsibility fell mostly on my mother
because she was unemployed, and she had to
go back and find a job, which she did,
and raised three children. And we lived in a very poor,
naturally, a very poor side of,
well, very poor part of the city
and that’s the only thing we could afford.
But she did, she raised us up. Well,
first of all, she raised all three of us, put us through school. Anyway, grammar school.
But my older brother, Fernando,
what happened is that he found that for him
to go out and work construction and
whatever it was, it was very hard on him, so he said,
“You know, Mom, I would like to join the army.”
And that’s, he volunteered for the army.
He joined back in 1948. 1948? So what happened to him?
Well, what happened is that first, he went through training
in California, then, that was back in
‘48, ‘49. Then, he was stationed
in Japan, they shipped him up to Japan,
and then there, when he was training,
the Korean War broke out. Now,
he was with the 7th Division,
32nd Infantry Regiment,
Company A, and he,
the, actually, they, he was involved, with others,
in the landing in Inchon.
The Inchon landing was strategy by
MacArthur to actually cut the
North Koreans. Yeah? And he was
involved in that particular landing. Right after that, they moved him
all the way from around the peninsula and
and he landed on the other side,
which was the east side,
and, I think it’s Onsong, and from there, they actually moved
straight north, up to the Chosin Reservoir. There at the Chosin Reservoir,
well, I’m, well, they stopped at the right next, I’ll say
they stopped at the Yellow River. And MacArthur said,
“We’re not going any further. We’re gonna stay here. And
there was a discussion, I’m sure, that was
strategy involved there, I’m just staying there,
and all this time,
Chinese were thinking of invading or
coming down. Consequently, they came down
in big numbers, and he was lost,
he was MIA. He’s still MIA. So he was lost
in Chosin battle? In the Chosin battle, yes. When were you notified as MIA
about your brother?
Well, we- Your brother’s name is Fernando. Fernando.
F-e-r-n-a-n-d-o. Yes, it is.
When were you notified about your brother?
Well, I would, I don’t remember because I was
fourteen, fourteen years of age, but I would, 1950,
I would think that he was notified…
Let’s see, I would say in 1952.
Because by then the war was going,
and I think my mother received a telegram that he was Missing
in Action. Do you still have that telegram? I
do not. But the only correspondence that I
do have, I didn’t bring it with me, is about
his commander that he apologized, I mean not apologized,
but he informed my mother that he had been lost. So you still have that correspondence?
Yes, I think I do. Okay. I have to, I have to check on that.
But not the telegram. I don’t know what she did with the telegram.
But my mother’s dead now, my sister is also dead,
and I’m the only survivor, so. So when,
what school did you go through, you go through? When, what school did you go through?
Well, we lived in a poor side of, I’ll say, of the
city and there was a
grammar school, Franklin School. Grammar school.
And now, I attended there up to the sixth grade, and from there,
I went to junior high,
which was Bowie High School, and then I
I was there from seventh, eighth, until I graduated in
high school? This is Bowie High School. B-o-w-i-e
In 1952? May of 1952. Okay.
What happened to you then? Well, actually,
after I’d, then, I, after I graduated
I, I looked for a job and I worked at the service station.
From there on, I, then I applied for El Paso,
El Paso Natural Gas Company, and
I worked there for thirty-three years, and I was a
printing supervisor. Mostly, my responsibility was the
bindery, which I became the bindery supervisor. And I worked there for thirty-three
years, and I retired. And presently I’m… Did you ever join the military?
I did not, and the reason is this: since there was only
three of us in the family, was the children, and I
went to the registration, and he said,
and I told him that I was the only, my dad had left, my brother had left, I was the
only survivor, and I was helping my mother.
Support. And they gave me a 4-A, I was classified as a 4-A. 4?
4-A. A? Means? Which is, that’s
that’s a deferment, that means that
you don’t have to to
actually report unless they need you. So you told me that you have some pictures of your brother, right?
Yes. The first one, that’s my brother, Fernando.
He’s the one that served in Korea, Missing in Action.
Second to him is my sister, Lucy.
She passed away ten years ago, and then that’s me,
the youngest one on the very end. And, I’ll tell you, that’s a few years ago.
But then, that’s the only picture we have, that I
have of three of us. Beautiful family.
Fernando, you… No, Fernando, Lucy, and Ben. And Ben.
Beautiful. Well, thank you, thank you very much. Yeah, very handsome and very pretty.
Well, thank you. I, I will tell you that
my grandfather was from Germany
and, there, see I would say
he passed the genes over to my mother, which is half German,
and we have some German blood in us, maybe that’s the difference. Okay.
Plus, we have Indian blood from my father, from Mexico.
So then show me another picture.
This is Fernando, and this is El Paso, Texas, when he was born.
US Army Corporal, Missing in Action – Presumed Dead,
December the 2nd, 1950. And this is
the, the, the Company that
he served for: Company A, 32nd Infantry, which I mentioned
also, in the fighting the enemy in North Korea,
December the 2nd. And he was presumed
dead December the 31st. Now under here, it says
the awards. A Purple Heart, the Combat
Infantry Badge, the Korean Service, the United
Nations Service Medal, and the National Defense Service
Medal. I have received,
I would say, a certificate: United States of America
honors the memory of Fernando Arriola, and this certified that he was a
grateful, you know, for a grateful nation and the Armed Service.
It was actually sent to me by Lyndon Johnson.
And then, also in memory of Fernando Arriola,
same thing, who died in the military operation in Korea.
On this particular one, it’s Eisenhower,
General Eisenhower. But then, he was president.
Now, also, I have certificates
of the Pearl Harbor. Let me see if I can…
Which he was given. Was he also in the World War II?
No, he was not.
But this, actually this certificate and the medal,
I received it afterwards. Tell me about it.
Well, see, I imagine that when you’re
Missing in Action, well, he was in action for sure,
and he was probably wounded.
And now, there’s no record of that,
but the government went ahead and sent me,
or the family, the Purple Heart, which I do have it there at the
house. And then, I
I was, you know, I was received this back in 1954,
that the president requests that I inform you of the Purple Heart,
and that was it. Not only that, but I have received correspondence
from the, from the, from Korea.
And on this particular one, the President of the Republic,
Kim Dae-jung, he has sent us these,
both in English and in- Korea?
in Korean, for sure. They also,
I received other certificates
from the Korean government, and this one’s from
the retired general, Choi, Seung-Woo.
which I have, which is very interesting, to me anyway,
is that every year, I do get…
I’m sure others do receive, but what I hold here in my hand
is actually Christmas cards,
given, actually sent to me, by Bill Clinton, our
president. Look, there
we go, and
this one’s… The latest ones:
Bill Clinton, all of these.
And this one’s the latest one: I received the Christmas from
Barack, or President Obama. What I have here
is a picture my brother that was…
He took this picture just before he, he
returned to El Paso, where we lived. This is a picture of him
in the barracks, where he lived.
And this is a card
signifying that he was a Catholic, anyway active in the Catholic- How did you get that picture?
This one here? No. This one? No.
This one? Yeah, I think this was sent by a,
by a friend of his. And he also,
before he went to Japan, he was
sending pictures, pictures of himself and his friends
to us. And this is another picture
of him, and this is one of his friends,
Joe, that did, was there with him at the
barracks training. This is
him over here. You can see it, when he was involved in sports
and used to run the high hurdles.
This is the ship, the USS Patrick,
that, that actually took him to Japan,
that they shipped out of Seattle to Japan.
And these are friends of his,
and you can say they
loved to take pictures. There’s a couple, see the, the
whole, the company that
he was, that he was, that he belonged to.
And… Let me see if I’ve got another one. Yeah.
This picture over here is the
company that he belonged to, this is the 32nd Company A,
and he’s there somewhere. He has more pictures of his friends right
there. Okay, my brother, while he was in the army,
he actually was a boxer, and some, I think it was during,
when they were shipping out, they removed, say, when they were in the
ship and going to Japan, he got in a bout,
and they knocked the teeth, one of his, one of his
teeth, the, the, the canine tooth
was, was actually, he lost his canine tooth.
And when they declared him Missing in Action,
they sent back the cameras, they sent back all the
pictures and correspondence, and they sent me
his canine tooth. And what I’ve done with this, is that I have
actually given it to the Defense Department in Hawaii,
and they have actually removed some of the DNA, and they have it
recorded, and if they do ever find it- His remains, and it will be the evidence. The evidence- For matching DNA.
DNA, exactly. So that’s
about it. But then lately, the reason I
I know more about the Chosin
Reservoir is because I have this book that I’ve read it a couple of times.
And it tells me just what really happened at the
Chosin Reservoir. The different chapters. And I’ve
underlined several things that have happened there that were
very, I would say,
hurtful. One was the weather that they suffered- Why don’t you read it?
Okay. Actually, east of the Chosin, and it’s actually the…
written by Roy Appleman.
Yeah. And what happened is this man did a lotta research
on the Chosin. He actually interviewed
many of the ones that, that came back.
And that there weren’t that many, few. And they have
different battles, and at the end, more important, is it has,
this is very interesting, it tells you the number
of fighting men that were there at the beginning of
Chosin and number that came back. There were two thousand and only two hundred
came back. Okay. So, my brother was one of the
ones that did not come back. So, your brother is still Missing in Action. Yes, he is.
And you would love to have his remains back.
And that’s why the Americans and Korean governments are working so hard. Do you know anything about Korea?
Yes. Where he fought for? Yes, I did. Tell me about that.
I have, the, I’ll say, the government has a program, and it’s called…
Revisit Program? Revisit Program, thank you.
And it’s Revisit, and I’ve been there, and I’ve visited Korea. I’ve been
to Seoul, Incheon. And I visited the
memorials, and… And it gives me goose pimples, because I just
think of a country and what happened there, my brother’s still
there. And it’s, it’s, it’s, I guess it’s, it hurts me. To see that he gave
his life, he’s still there, and I can’t find him.
I would be a very…
I would think, it would be, before I would die, because I’m the last one of the family,
to actually receive his remains. And then he’ll be here, with me in El Paso.
And you’ve done,
what you have done in the last sixty-four years, it’s
just amazing. To be on the top of the world. So,
my brother’s sacrifice and all the other sacrifices was
sure worth it. Thank you very much for
recognizing and keep us, you know, informed,
and we appreciate everything you do for us.
Thank you very much, Ben, for sharing your
brother’s story, and you’re
so passionate about the possibility for the return of your
brother’s remains. We will pray together, and we
hope that you can put a closure
on his whole service. On behalf of Korean nation, we thank you. Thank you.
Your brother. Yes, thank you.